Hough: Will Legislature ever get it right on highway safety?

December 11, 2013 


— State Rep. Josh Putnam’s priorities are grossly out of order when it comes to highway safety (“Bill would force slow drivers to right lane,” Dec. 4).

Cell-phone usage for talking or texting is a much greater danger to all motorists than a driver traveling in the fast lane five miles under the speed limit. Yet Rep. Putnam proposes to deduct two points from the driver’s license for the slower driver while slapping the more dangerous cell-phone offender on the wrist with a $25 fine and no point deduction (H.4391).

A National Safety Council study shows at least 23 percent of traffic accidents resulting in property damage or injury in 2011 were caused by hand-held or hands-free cell-phone usage; that’s in line with other studies that place the number at 20 to 30 percent. The council reports that drivers using cell phones are four times more likely than those not using them to be involved in an accident causing property damage or physical injury.

I have put a lot of miles on our interstate roadways since they were established in the 1950s, and I have never felt threatened by a slower vehicle in the left lane. Inconvenienced, yes, but never threatened.

However, my safety definitely has been threatened by people using cell phones while driving. H.4391 is attempting to put all of these hazardous drivers into one lane, thereby greatly increasing the chances of being wrecked, injured or killed by a cell-phone-using driver for all who try to avoid trouble by traveling at a more moderate speed in the right lane.

We desperately need legislation to stop cell-phone usage while driving on any roadway. This law should carry stiff fines and point penalties. There also should be stiff penalties for those who are reading books, newspapers, spreadsheets, etc., working on laptops, applying makeup and intentionally performing other distracting activities while driving.

Walker Hough


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